When you look at a painting, what do you see? Are you mesmerized by the colors? Does it evoke a feeling? Do you pay close attention to the technique or the focal point? Is it telling a story?
Karen Israel, one of the Arts Council’s two 2019 Featured Artists*, has all of this on her mind (and more) when she begins a new painting. Even though Israel tends to be inspired by things occurring in nature (landscapes, fish, and flamingoes to name a few), one walk-through of her studio or a glance at her portfolio reveals that her repertoire includes a broad range of subject matter.
Blues Traveler Redux (seen below) was created from Israel’s imagination but influenced by her visits to Barn Island on the Connecticut Sound over the summer. “My concept in creating this was to paint the feeling of fresh air and distance.” In deeper conversation with Israel, you would learn that basic artistic principles play an important role in her artistic process. “I often begin each painting with a simple sketch. Throughout the painting process I consider a harmonious color palette. I pay special attention to the edges of the clouds and how they sit against the sky and always strive for creating distance and atmosphere in my landscape. This painting is one of a series of ‘big sky’ paintings where the inspiration derives mainly from my memory of a place.”
When creating, she is always considering these essential questions:“What are the shapes, what are the tones, are the edges soft? Is the object in motion? Where is the light? I look at negative spaces(spaces between objects) and ask myself:are they interesting and varied?” Whenever possible, Israel strives to tell a story through her paintings. “I will ask myself which elements of the painting are most important to the story?”
Israel was most recently awarded the Gold Medal of Honor from the Audubon Artists Association and Best in Show from the Pastel Society of the West Coast. She is an elected member of the Lyme Art Association, New Haven Paint and Clay Club, Salmagundi Club NYC and the American Artists Professional League. Her work has been featured in Practique Des Artes and the Pastel Journal.
She teaches regularly at the West Hartford Art League and the Farmington Valley Arts Center and gives workshops and instructional demos throughout the Northeast. Her work has been recognized in both national and an international competitions, but Israel is careful to note that painting is not her first career, and that she is constantly learning. “I tell my students…when you’re learning from me, you’re learning from the 10 people before me that I have studied under”
* Each year, the Arts Council picks a work from two local visual artists to create prints that given to supporters of our United Arts Campaign. Click here to learn more, or find how you can receive a copy of Israel’s Blues Traveler Redux below.